Contents: Artist Statement
Process and Techniques
I work with a fine white stoneware and sometimes with 'T-Material'. The fine clay is used for throwing and then altering the leather hard forms. It is also an excellent surface for carving fine relief and for obtaining a high quality burnished surface. The ' T-Material's coarse body is ideal for handbuilding larger pots, mostly coil-built and carved, so that the rich texture may contrast against the smooth burnished surface.
Initial ideas are sketched out and then small clay maquettes are made in a dialogue with the sketchbook ideas. It may take many months for this process of clay and pencil before a final form is resolved. At that stage I will search for the most economical way to make the form larger, and in doing so the shape undergoes further change or refinement.
Much of my work is thrown and altered, but I use coiling, slab building, and press moulding for many of the sculptures. The soft clay is left to dry to leather hard and carefully honed and refined, using metal kidneys and knives. The finished form may receive a coat of slip (if it is made from T material),
otherwise oxides are added for subtle colour variations. Using a tea-spoon to compress the clay surface, each work is burnished up to 4 times (drying out in between each burnish), to create a dense polished surface.
All the work is bisque fired in an electric kiln between 1000 -1100 C. The higher the temperature of bisque firing, the less porous to the smoke the sculpture will be. The smoke firing is carried out in a simple brick built chamber in a field. The pots are packed very carefully in sawdust to create pockets of air or so that some may screen others from the smoke. Pots may be partially buried in sand to screen areas from smoke, and oxides added to the sawdust to give occassional flashes of colour. Different wood types are used, and different grades of sawdust - all of which are experimented with to produce a variety of colouration in the smoke. The smoke firing usually takes 2 to 3 days to complete; the work is assessed and many of the pieces are refired several times again. Naturally with this type of firing there is an element of chance involved, depending on the weather. There is a high percentage of breakage during firing and work is discarded that will not take up the smoke to my satisfaction. The outcome of a good firing, however, is a range of wonderfully dramatic flashed surfaces with others that are most subtle - results that are beyond the control of the human hand and offer a natural contrast to the strong and controlled forms that I produce.
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